Block 488: October 14, 2014

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It’s gray and overcast in Portland today and I kinda love it.

Date: October 14, 2014

Crane: 488

Days Spent on Project: 603

Location: NW Portland, OR

Person I would have sent it to: After Fela! opened in the late fall of 2009, I was incredibly excited with the idea that I had opened a Broadway show, and that people were buzzing about it. I was also incredibly excited because I was about to adopt a five month old French Bulldog who was being kept by a breeder in Tennessee.

I was also excited because I had stumbled onto a second job, assisting on my second Broadway show. (Two in one season!)

Amy C. (Crane #92) had been hired as the Associate Designer on the upcoming Twyla Tharp show that would play the Marquis. She would be working with a designer, also from Yale, named Katherine R.

I really enjoyed working with Katherine on that production. It was (another) huge learning curve for me, as I was assigned to be in charge of the shoe designs… on a show all about dancing where all the dancers were incredibly trained and technical and needed the footwear to be, um, exact.

I learned to love Lanvin from Katherine. I learned to really be specific on the cut of clothing. I learned to really like expensive fabrics from Katherine.

I also learned to always question what an item is. I learned the need to keep being inquisitive. I walked into the studio one day to find Katherine trying to make a ballet slipper out of velvet… not an ideal fabric for that kind of show. I was floored that she would be that curious about design.

She and I have since worked together a few more times in the past five years. I always enjoyed working with her; I doubt I’ll run into her again now that I’m based in Portland and I doubt this theater could afford her taste.

Yeah, the shows I worked on with Katherine have always been tasteful, really thought out, and real. I like that about her…

If I could have made it in New York, I would have liked to be a bit more like her, I guess.

Music I listened to while sewing: No music today. I think there’s something on in the work room, but I can’t tell.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: Today, I’m wondering about capabilities and expectations.

It’s slow in the shop right now. We’re in the middle of a month long lull as our first two shows of the season are up and running, the next two shows are holiday remounts and don’t start rehearsal (for another month), and then the rest of the season’s designs haven’t been turned in yet. In the meantime, we’ve done a lot of clean-up and streamlining of the shop, which has been good. The room now seems so much more organized and so much larger than it did when I arrived here in July. It’s amazing what happens when you start over.

I’ve got the ladies in the costume shop building a fake costume¬†today to display in the theater building; as we were sorting decade old patterns that were taking up much-needed space for no reason, we found a pretty great turn of the century dress that was made probably 20 years ago and has since disappeared. I’ve asked the ladies here to build it- but the right half out of muslin and cheap fabrics with all the thread-tracing and marking and padding and “notes” and boning and interior guts visible, and then the left side out of “nice” fabric. I want to use it to show people how much work actually goes into a costume… when it’s done right and well. I’d like people in this building to remember that we are capable of doing good work… if we have time (ha!) and supplies and dialogue and a vision and skill.

I’m trying to get the theater to realize (not remember, but realize) that we are capable of so much more.

I’m trying to get the theater to realize (not remember, but realize) that we should expect this work and not see it as elusive.

I’d like to stop hearing the excuse that there wasn’t the right dialogue or communication or time or money (that’s a stretch) or skill level or support or desire to do our job well.

I’d like for these people to take constructive ownership of the work and be proud of it. I know they do and they are, but I’d like other people here to have that understanding as well.

Big thoughts and dreams.

I still think, daily, and wonder, all the time, if I gave up by leaving New York. I don’t believe that you can only create good art in NYC. I don’t believe NYC is a city built for artists anymore. There’s no freedom in that city to fail or stumble or go out on a limb or try. In my experience over 8 years there, I never felt like I could follow a dream or a whimsy or a passing thought or desire without sacrificing something huge if it didn’t turn into anything.

I still do miss New York, though. I miss how everything seemed to vibrate there.

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